You were at the beach. You were visiting relatives. You had friends over for one, last barbecue. You were scrubbing down the altar for the midnight sacrifice to the Great Old Ones (special for Providence only). Whatever you were doing, it was something you felt was more important than being in the theater this past Labor Day weekend.
And why not? While nowhere near a transcendent filmgoing experience, director Ole Bornedal’s dip into THE EXORCIST well, THE POSSESSION, mustered up enough atmosphere, dramatic tension, and credible performances — including Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick as divorced parents trying to cope with a young daughter infested with an evil demon — to merit it more attention than is usually given to films shoveled into the traditional Labor Day dumping bin. Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski and Dan Persons take a few minutes to explore the film’s assorted pleasures and discuss the elements that made it a candidate for summary dismissal. Then Dan gives his capsule opinion of Tsui Hark’s Imax 3D spectacular, FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE and runs down what’s coming the theaters next week.
FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE is the first Tsui Hark film to be shot in Imax 3D, starring Jet Li. Okay, stop salivating and sit back down, we’ve got work to do.
Granted, your enthusiasm is understandable. Hark — master of such deliriously epic action films as PEKING OPERA BLUES and ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA — came roaring back to prominence last year with DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME, and now returns with an ambitious adventure that’s actually a continuation of a film series that started in 1967, about a desert inn where both the noble and the infamous rub elbows and clash swords. In addition to all the expected Hark trappings, such as inventive battle scenes, sharp comedy, and women characters who can stand their own against their male counterparts — including a mysterious swordswoman, played by Zhou Xun, and a lusty barbarian princess, played by Lunmei Kwai (because would you want any other kind?) — the increased palette of China’s first Imax 3D film gives the director a whole new way to mess with your mind. Trust me, Hark takes generous advantage of the opportunity.
This is Hark’s return to MIGHTY MOVIE PODCAST, and we’re glad to have him back; less glad that it had to be via a not-quite-Dolby-grade phone connection. We’ve done our best to smooth out the audio — hopefully you’ll find the discussion well-worth the effort.
Indomina Releasing partners with IMAX Theatres to provide limited exclusive IMAX 3-D engagements of this Fant-Asia fantasy film from producer-director Tsui Hark, the man behind A CHINESE GHOST STORY and so many other Asian fantasy epics. One of China’s biggest box office hits, THE FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE is a first for that country, in terms of its IMAX 3-D format, with a big chunk of change coming from the specialty theatres. The plot, based on a classic story that has already been filmed twice, has a band of marauders posing as ordinary citizens while seeking treasure in the Dragon Inn, which according to legend was built on the site of a lost city. Cast: Jet Li, Xun Zhou, Kun Chen, Lunmei Kwai, Huchun Li, Mavis Fan, Siu-Wong Fan, Chia Hui Liu.
Theatrical Release Date: Friday, August 31, 2012
Rated R for some Violence
Running time: 121 minutes Theatres:
Boston: AMC Loews Boston Common 19
Skokie (near Chicago): AMC Showplace Village Crossing 18
Cause for celebration, indeed: Hong Kong director Tsui Hark is back, and if anything, his vision has gotten more crazily energetic and eye-dazzling in his latest effort. In DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME, Andy Lau plays actual historical figure Dee Renjie, a disgraced judge who’s compelled to confront the undeniably fantastic when he’s sprung from prison by embattled Empress Wu to find out who is exterminating her entourage by having them burst spontaneously into flame. As can be expected from Hark, the film is a treasure trove of dizzyingly exquisite fight sequences, backed up by a witty and intelligent story line that has Dee on the one hand deploying science against the forces of superstition and on the other sees him in conflict with an empress ruthlessly determined to maintain her power. It’s got action, it’s got spectacle, it’s got a deer who can kick ass. What else could you ask for?
Click on the player to hear my interview with Hark.
Coming attractions for the latest Fant-Asia effort from Tsui Hark, the man behind such classics of the form as A CHINESE GHOST STORY and the SWORDSMAN trilogy. The film is also known as D-PROJECT and DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME.
This is a major disappointment from Hong Kong filmmaker Tsui Hark, who produced and/or directed some of the best fantasy films of the 1980s and 1990s (including A CHINESE GHOST STORY and GREEN SNAKE). This 2001 production, a re-hashing of 1983’s ZU, WARRIORS OF THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, is updated in terms of productions values and special effects, but it lacks the flair and charm of Hark’s earlier productions. The heavy-handed approach to the slim story bogs the film down so badly that even hardcore fans will find their patience tested to the limits as they wait in vain hope for some of the old excitement to arise.
The setting is the mythical world of Zu, where immortals train for centuries to perfect their martial arts skills. One day, a pupil named King Sky (Ekin Cheng) is sent away by his master Dawn (Cecilia Cheung) just before an evil force destroys her. Centuries later, King Sky teams up with Red (Louis Koo) and White Eyebrows (Sammo Hung Kam-Bo) to confront the force, which now threatens all of Zu. King Sky meets Enigma, who is the reincarnation of Dawn. Red keeps watch over a mountain where the evil is gestating, but he is bedeviled by a tiny pixie that eventually possesses him, turning him evil. White Eyebrows instructs his followers to merge the Thunder and Sky swords into one invincible weapon, but the attempt fails. Then White Eyebrows tells King Sky that he has the ability to merge three great powers that will defeat the evil; only this does not work, so it’s back to merging the two magic swords, which finally succeeds, enabling victory. Continue reading “Zu Warriors (2001) – DVD Review”→